Cultivating Contentment in Your Children Part 2

Painting by Barbara Philip

Painting by Barbara Philip

For Part 1 click here.

I have a feeling this idea is going to have a lot of “Parts” to post.  We are continuing to learn about contentment around here.  It’s a theme in our household, and maybe it’s because we are human.

Lately, we’ve had some extra fun.  There was a sweet baby born, there were two birthdays celebrated, and family and friend visits, and a birthday party.  With all of this excitement came lots of gifts!

I do love gifts.

This doesn’t mean I’m too picky though.  I don’t have expensive taste, and I don’t mind a free gift or one that has been re-gifted.  I enjoy receiving, but I also enjoy giving.  I love giving gifts just as much as I love receiving them.  Truly.

My husband really couldn’t care less about gifts, although he does accept them graciously.  Our kids are like me in this way, which is not surprising because they are children.  They have thoroughly enjoyed this season of PRESENTS!  Even the one child who did not have a birthday (whether it be the actual first one like the new baby or the anniversary of one like two siblings of hers) received gifts.  She got big sister gifts, sorry-it’s-not-your-birthday-like-everyone-else’s-gifts, and even used some of her money to buy something while we were out one day.

And now.  Now the children want something everywhere we go and are expecting to find more gifts in the mailbox.  Haha!  I’ve even found myself wanting to buy them more.  It’s fun buying things they want and seeing them enjoy them!  But thankfully I have had self-control due to the Lord’s grace and my husband’s expectations (both of which have been extremely helpful).

However, I have noticed that we have some serious stepping back to do.  I’ve talked to the children about this.  I’ve asked them questions and explained answers.  I’ve reminded them of how much we have already and how blessed we are and that we cannot get everything we want when we want it.  We’ve talked about needs and wants.

They’ve even cried and stomped their feet.  In the middle of Target (why did I let them venture into the toy department?).

What’s Gotten Into Us?

One culprit I can see is this whole Disney’s Frozen craze.  We do enjoy this movie, and it was fun to buy some merchandise during these recent celebrations, but I have a theory.

Everything Frozen is so hard to find.  Every store is out.  Everything is on backorder.  Ebay has stuff, but for a ridiculous amount of money, and I am afraid people are spending it.  Even Amazon has allowed price-hiking which really surprised me.

So I started to ask myself, “Why wouldn’t these companies want to provide enough merchandise for people who want to buy it?  Why are they letting Ebay and Amazon sellers make the profits?”

My theory is that they are wanting to create that hype that makes someone buy three “Anna dolls” when they hit the shelves instead of just the one that her daughter wants.  She buys three because she doesn’t know when they will be available again. Or she buys them to resell for two or three times the price.  As soon as these items are available, they are sold out.

I don’t know.  Perhaps none of this is true, and there are far less intentional reasons for selling out of everything.  However I have noticed its effect on me, too.  I’m sorry to say, that when I have seen items on the shelves I become very tempted to buy it!  We were at the store the other day, and I saw something and was surprised that my girls didn’t want it.  I found myself asking them again, to be sure.  They didn’t want it, but somehow I wanted to get it because there was actually something Frozen available.  Kind of embarrassed by that.  But seriously, I let the door of desire to buy this stuff open when I was buying birthday presents and suddenly I found it still ajar.

This has been part of the problem for my children I think, too.  They were allowed to get stuff for a time, and now their appetite is kind of sort of raging.

So what’s a mom, and fellow fan of a good musical, to do?

Purge Mode:

We’re cleaning out closets, drawers, and toy boxes again.  This is a good thing to do often, but I’ve mentioned before that I think it’s a great thing to do after a birthday or Christmas or any other time when a good amount of gifts are coming in.  I find that I feel much more comfortable in my home when there is a place for the stuff we have.  If the stuff starts to outgrow the space, then some of it has to go.  A toy box lid should close, in my opinion.  A closet door should be able to, as well.  If clothes are falling out of the backs of drawers, then perhaps we have too many in there.

At first my children are always hesitant.  They somehow fear that I will get rid of their most prized possessions and give them to the neighbors, so they have to be subjected to seeing these beloved objects played with by others.  This is not the case.  There are so many things that they may have loved at one time, but quite frankly, they moved on.  This is a normal part of childhood development.  They get older and lose interest in some of their toys, their tastes in clothes change which makes them not really like that outfit anymore, etc.  It’s okay.

Once they realize this, they begin to get really excited when they find the doll at the bottom of the toy box that they completely forgot about because of the mound above it that buried it for the last six months.  I hear cheers and gasps of, “Oh I forgot I had this doll!” and “There it is!  I’ve been looking for this! (obviously they weren’t looking that hard for it)”

Plus once their room is back to a nice, peaceful and ordered state, they are usually glad we purged.  Sometimes they protest or gripe, but usually they forget all about whatever we got rid of shortly after its been sold at a yard sale or donated or passed on to a friend.

Money Lessons:

I remember having “my own money” as a kid and thinking it was the greatest sense of freedom I could imagine.  It seems so incredible to my children when they have a whole $21.13 in their piggy banks.  It is fun to spend it, but we really want to teach our children good, solid principles about money that will help them when they are older.

Honestly it took me a well into my marriage to learn this.  My husband, Mr. Frugal, had some lessons to learn, too.  Thankfully we have balanced each other out well.  Thanks to his frugality, we have money to live on.  Thanks to my enjoyment of giving gifts to others, we have friends still and our family knows we love them.

All joking aside though, this was a tough lesson for me.  I wasn’t a spoiled brat, but when I wanted this or that, I wanted it.  I had to learn to take no for an answer from my husband and not make him feel badly about it.

It’s not just about not wanting to spend all of our money.  It’s more about being content with what we have.  It’s about really thinking and praying before making purchases and being wise with our money.  It’s about not being selfish and materialistic.  It’s counter-culture, I know.  Often applying good biblical wisdom is quite counter culture.

We also pray that these lessons in waiting and not buying right away, shopping around for the best deal, or just not getting what we want will lead to further trust in the Lord and the desire to be a good steward of what He provides.

And of course there are times for receiving gifts, giving gifts, and just spending money on something that we’ve wanted for a while.  Those times are much sweeter when we learn contentment and wisdom in the meantime.

The Bottom Line:

Giving and receiving can be so much fun, but it is important to watch out for the idols that can be set up in our hearts.  These idols war against the Lord who sits on the throne of the hearts of those who follow Him and can wreak havoc on our lives.  Sure, it may be just a tiny idol for a child, but these tiny ones can grow into large ones as the child grows older if they are not dealt with when they are tiny.

We pray that as we help our children navigate through these hearts issues, that they will learn continually what it means to be content in the Lord.  He really is all we need.  He takes care of everything else.

“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” (Psalm 23:1 HCSB)


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